Juvenile Indigent Defense Delivery System
Nevada provides counsel to indigent youth through both county and state systems of indigent representation. Counties with populations in excess of 100,000—currently, the counties where Las Vegas and Reno are located—are required by statute to have public defender offices. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 260.010. Elko County has also established a public defender office. County public defender offices are county-funded. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 260.040. County public defenders and the State Public Defender are required to represent juveniles accused of delinquency. Nev. Rev. Stat. §§ 260.050, 180.060. In counties with a public defender office, when the public defender has a conflict or otherwise cannot represent a youth, the State Public Defender may be appointed. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 180.060(5).
The Nevada Supreme Court adopted the Nevada Indigent Defense Standards of Performance, which are designed to improve the quality of criminal defense representation in Nevada and provide objective guidelines for the allocation of resources for indigent defense.
In addition to statutes and case law, juvenile court proceedings are governed by court rules. Nevada does not have specific juvenile court rules at the statewide level, but local court rules may apply to juvenile courts in a given jurisdiction.
Right to Counsel
Beyond the right to counsel in juvenile court guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution and In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967), states often have state constitution or statutory provisions further expanding upon or delineating that right.
In Nevada, youth in juvenile court have the right to counsel “at all stages of the proceedings” and “the court shall advise the child and the parent or guardian of the child” of this right. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62D.030(1). The summons served with a petition shall include notice “of the child of the child’s right to be represented by an attorney at the initial hearing.” Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62C.300(1)(b).
Determination of Indigence
Nevada has no presumption of indigence in juvenile court proceedings. The court must determine if the parent or guardian is indigent, based on the standards listed in the juvenile right to counsel statute. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62D.030(6). In addition to the specific listed circumstances, the court may determine “the parent or guardian is financially unable, without substantial hardship to the parent or guardian or his or her dependents, to obtain qualified and competent legal counsel” for the youth. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62D.030(6)(b).
“The juvenile court shall appoint an attorney for a child if the parent or guardian of the child does not retain an attorney for the child and is not likely to retain an attorney for the child.” Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62D.030(3). The court can order the parent or guardian to pay all or part of the cost of counsel for the child, based on the parent or guardian’s ability to pay. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62D.030(5).
Waiver of Counsel
A juvenile in Nevada may waive his or her right to counsel if the waiver “is made knowingly, intelligently, voluntarily and in accordance with any applicable standards established by the juvenile court.” Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62D.030(4)(b). A youth may also waive counsel if a petition is not filed and the youth “is placed under informal supervision” of a parole officer. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62D.030(4)(a).
When and how the court may decide to detain a child or otherwise place restrictions on the child’s freedom is defined by statute and court rules. In Nevada, for counties whose population is less than 100,000 people, a detention hearing must occur within 24 hours of the child being detained “at a police station, lockup, jail, prison or other facility in which adults are detained or confined,” excluding weekends and holidays, or within 72 hours if the juvenile is in a facility where adults are not detained or confined. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62C.040(1). For counties whose population exceeds 100,000 people, a detention hearing must occur within 6 hours of the child being detained “at a police station, lockup, jail, prison, or other facility in which adults are detained or confined,” excluding weekends and holidays, or within 72 hours if the juvenile is in a facility where adults are not detained or confined. Id.
Provisions for the detention of juveniles are found in Nev. Rev. Stat. §§ 62.170, 62.172, 62C.010, 62C.020, 62C.030, 62C.040, 62C.060, and 62D.030.
The U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court case law are also sources of due process rights beyond local and state statutes and provisions. NJDC’s Detention Page provides more information about detaining youth.
The legal needs of children in the delinquency system rarely end at disposition, and states vary in the way they provide a right to representation on these post-disposition issues. Nevada statutes list no post-disposition proceedings at which youth have a right to counsel.
NJDC’s Post-Disposition Page has more information on this topic from a national perspective.
Ages of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction
The age of a child who comes within the jurisdiction of the state’s juvenile courts is defined by state law. In Nevada:
- Children younger than age 8 are presumed not to be capable of committing crimes and are therefore not subject to punishment, Nev. Rev. Stat. § 194.010(1);
- Children between the ages of 8 years and 10 years are not subject to punishment, unless the child is charged with murder or a sexual offense, Nev. Rev. Stat. § 194.010(2);
- Children between the ages of 8 years and 14 years, in the absence of clear proof that at the time of committing the act charged against them they knew its wrongfulness, are not subject to punishment, Nev. Rev. Stat. § 194.010(3);
- Juvenile court has jurisdiction over offenses alleged to have been committed prior to a child’s 18thbirthday; after age 18, the youth is charged in adult court, Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62A.030(a);
- Juvenile court can retain jurisdiction over youth until age 21, provided that the offense alleged to have been committed occurred before the youth turned 18, Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62A.030(b).
Youth in Adult Court
Despite the existence of juvenile courts, many youth are still tried as adults. Nevada has three ways that juveniles can be prosecuted as adults:
- Mandatory Certification: Certification in adult court is mandatory if, after investigation, a youth age 16 or older is accused of sexual assault involving the threatened or use of force or an offense involving a firearm. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62B.390(2).
- Discretionary Certification: Certification in adult court is subject to the juvenile court’s discretion if a youth age 14 or older is charged with an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult or if a youth age 13 or older is charged with murder or attempted murder. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62B.390(1).
- Statutory Exclusion for certain violent felonies, typically where the child has been previously adjudicated. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62B.330.
NJDC conducts statewide assessments of access to counsel and the quality of juvenile defense representation in delinquency proceedings around the country. These assessments provide a state with baseline information about the nature and efficacy of its juvenile indigent defense structures, highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the indigent juvenile defense system, and provide tailored recommendations that address each state’s distinctive characteristics to help decision-makers focus on key trouble spots and highlight best practices. The NJDC State Assessment Page provides more information about state assessments.
NJDC has not yet conducted an assessment of the juvenile indigent defense system in Nevada. If you would like to collaborate with NJDC to fundraise for, plan, or engage in an assessment in this state, please contact us.